Slovakia: Urban Planning & Real Estate Development - Formality Or Deal Breaker?

06.04.2016

The urban planning was, exactly as in the case of Czech Republic, almost completely administrated by the government according to national economic goals and objectives. After the fall of the Communist regime spatial planning and investment slowly started to turn its focus towards the protection of the local environment and sustainable development.

Despite having been amended many times since 1989 (38 times in total), the Building Act from 1976 is still the main legal act which regulates urban planning. The amendments tried to adapt the Act to modern needs and gave planning powers to municipal and regional authorities. Even after many attempts a new draft of the old legal act hasn’t been passed yet.

The Building Act surely has certain problems, however the amendments, which were made, contributed to its modernisation and made a step forward towards the requirements of European legislation.

Further paragraphs will be dedicated to the process of territorial planning with focus on its main characteristics from general instruments of planning to instruments used at municipal level.

Territorial planning (in Slovak “územné plánovanie”) is a tool used by the public administrative authorities consisting of tasks and continuous activities carried out in order to set the conditions for construction, sustainable land development, land protection and to determine the directions of spatial arrangement and functional use of land and. Sustainable development provided for in the Building Act reflects a number of international obligations of the Slovak Republic. The term Sustainable development is defined as a development of society which:

  • allows current and future generations to satisfy their basic needs,
  • doesn’t deteriorate the divergence of nature,
  • preserves the natural function of ecosystems.

The primary instruments of territorial planning are as follows:

  • Spatial planning Records (in Slovak “územnoplánovacie podklady”) – consisting of:
    • territorial studies (deals with partial problems in the given territory, its spatial arrangements and functional use of land, gives a detail view on the zoning plan or verifies it)
    • general plan of territory (provides for detailed solutions of individual components of settlements, mainly housing, industry, agriculture, transport, etc.)
    • territorial prognosis (addresses the long-term possibilities of spatial arrangement and functional use of land)
    • technical territory materials (of which the most important is the Strategy of territorial development of Slovakia)
    • other documents (strategy of sustainable development).
  • Spatial planning documentation (in Slovak “územnoplánovacia dokumentácia”) – where the solutions of the spatial planning of the respective area are laid down. The spatial planning documentation – consists of:
    • The Concept of spatial development of Slovak Republic (in Slovak “koncepcia územného rozvoja Slovenska”) created on a national level on the basis of Strategy of territorial development of Slovakia.
    • Regional territorial plan (in Slovak “územný plán regiónu”) which main purpose is to solve specific development plans of a part of the country with several municipalities.
    • Zoning plan of the municipality (in Slovak “územný plán obce”). A zoning plan of the municipality is alongside with the zoning plan of an area the basic instrument of territorial planning on a municipal level used by municipalities to structure their territories and introduce the direction of their development and its limits. The adoption of a zoning plan is entirely within the discretion of a municipal council. Each municipality was obliged to adopt a zoning plan before the end of 30.06.2005. Most of the municipalities managed to do so. The remaining municipalities make their decisions based on the primary instruments of territorial planning. Municipal councils decide on zoning plans, either on their own motion or following a motion of a public authority, their citizens or an individual or entity holding ownership or similar interests in property located in the municipality. The municipality is obliged to ask the regional building office for an examination whether the draft zoning plan complies with the spatial planning documentation of a higher degree and fulfils other legal requirements; and
    • Zoning plan of an area (in Slovak “územný plán zóny”). Zoning plan of an area is issued for a certain part of the municipality in more detail.
  • Zoning decisions – for example decisions on the placing of buildings, on the use of territory, etc.

The most important decision for a person intending to build within the municipality is the decision on the placing of the building. After receiving an application for a zoning decision the municipality makes a preliminary assessment if the application is complete and meets all legal (including environmental) requirements. The municipality examines if the contemplated structure fulfils the criteria prescribed by the spatial planning documentation and the consequences of the planned construction for the municipality. Each concerned Authority submits their opinions to the proceeding; usually these opinions are collected in advance by the applicant and submitted with the application to the administrative proceedings. Parties which are affected have a right to object (esp. the owners of adjoining land) within the within a given time period; otherwise objections are disregarded. Even the public may comment on the application. The final outcome of the proceedings is a decision on the placing of building issued by the Building Authority. The Building Authority may in justified cases issue a zoning decision under the condition that more detailed documents, design documents or parts thereof will be submitted to the Building Authority at the later stage. The general validity of a zoning decision is 2 years. The decision remains valid only if an application for a construction permit was filed during this period. The validity of the zoning decision may be extended upon request.

It should be noted that the individual instruments of territorial planning are ordered hierarchically, implying that a lower level instrument is bound by a higher level instrument.

Ever since Slovakia joined the European Union the ratio of foreign investors continually grows and Slovakia has become interesting not only because of taxes, but also due to the legal improvements completed in the recent years. Investors contemplating investments into real estate development have very good chances of success as the municipalities are welcoming new projects in their territory.